Friday, November 20, 2015

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe freedom of the press

So CNN suspends a reporter for correctly tweeting out that by passing a bill that would refuse to allow Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the country without more extensive vetting (as if that isn't already being done) that the Statue of Liberty would hang her head in shame. Of course after the tweet came the cries of liberal media bias from the right bouncing against cries from the left about CNN's spotty track record when it comes to truth in reporting. This claim of one-sidedness in the media isn't new. The Republican party has turned the notion of liberal bias into a powerful messaging apparatus that ensures the masses of right-leaning voters will only trust rightwing sources. So propaganda becomes the news. The problem with this model is that it doesn't speak to the real truth. That there is no liberal or conservative bias in the news. There's only an American bias.

Most Americans go through life with the sublime unawareness of our country's actions abroad. We live in a sugarcoated world of football and Jerry Springer; where politicians make proclamations that we are the greatest country on earth. That we are the only country with a truly free democracy and our press is the gold standard of reporting. The reality is much different. Or at least the perception of it by many people across the world is. America is bold. We like big things. Big houses, big roads to drive our big cars. We like swagger and grandiloquence. We eat red meat and freedom fries. We shoot guns. We wave our flags and religion (only Christianity and mostly the Protestant ones) and never once do we think that maybe we are the Sword of Domocles with a tenuous string of petulance holding that sword in place. We hate details in America. As long as it said in brash tones it doesn't matter how off-kilter it is.

Most of us get our news from cable, or Facebook or Smoke down at the barbershop or Randy at the parts store. Mrs. Falls at the bake sale said "the blacks" were taking over her neighborhood. Uncle Roch (short for Rochester) said he'd never met a Jew or a Aye-Rab that he could trust. These statements may sound outlandish to read but they are cornerstones of family gatherings and small talk after church. And our news media does nothing to disabuse us of our prejudices. Against one another or against the world at large.

We're taught in school that slavery began sometime hundreds of years ago. Then there was the Civil War (that had nothing to do with slavery though it did end it) and then there was Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech followed by the election of Barack Obama. But what we are not taught was that connective tissue between those milestone events. We are not taught about generational chattel slavery that lasted 246 years. We're not taught that Black women were bred like cattle having dozens of babies before their bodies died. We're not taught about how brutal American apartheid was or how--even after serving their country hundreds of Black soldiers were lynched and killed, mainly in the South and Mid-West, after WWII. We're not taught about the persecution of the Black Power movement of the 1970s. We just skip along from point-to-point not worrying about the fine print. And the media has become increasing culpable in keeping us ignorant.

If you ask the average American what is ISIS they will correctly reply its a terrorist organization. When you ask them how they came to be the answers becomes murkier. Its because we don't see those dots, hidden behind the hubris and debris of political discourse. We see 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and the Rise of ISIS--always reported with a fanfare of somber music evoking heroes and villains as if in a movie. The news has become so theatrical. It's like we're living in an Orwellian dystopia where we're told "TODAY WE FIGHT THE TALIBAN"--without irony and with the full knowledge that most Americans don't know we helped the Taliban come to power in the first place. So when I hear many conservatives on Facebook parrot what Dr. Ben Carson or Donald Trump is saying about Muslim databases and comparing refugees to rabid dogs; I know that many of them are shocked and surprised because the media did nothing to expand our worldview nor did we do anything to seek out that information. We have been spoon feed far too long. We invaded Iraq under false pretenses in 2003 which triggered a series of events that cost millions of people all over that region everything they held dear; these events led to a refugee crisis which in turn lead millions to flee their homeland. Some of them inexorably ended up on our doorstep. But because we have been watching Duck Dynasty and Love and Hip Hop their arrival comes as a complete surprise. So I'm not amazed that we want to turn them away. Why? Because we have been living a dream for so long. An addict's dream where we are high on exceptionalism and braggadocio. We are fully invested in staying asleep. The truth would be too powerful or painful.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bert Williams: America's first Black superstar in blackface

Bert Williams 1874-1922

"I have never been able to discover that there was anything disgraceful in being a colored man. But I have often found it inconvenient -- in America."

Bert Willaims was born Egbert Austin Williams in Nassau, Bahamas before his family moved to New York and then California. Forced to abandon his college study of civil engineering at Stanford University to earn a living, he turned his self-taught musical skills and gift for comic mimicry into a lifelong career. Williams was described by film comedian W. C. Fields (quoted by Ann Charters in Nobody: The Story of Bert Williams ) as "the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew."

Bert Williams got his start on the musical hall stage in 1892, when he began working at the San Francisco Museum, where someone was needed to sing in front of the curtain while the sets were being changed backstage. In 1893 he joined Martin and Selig's Mastodon Minstrel Show. It was soon thereafter that he began his partnership with George W. Walker, and billing themselves as "Two Real Coons" they went on to become one of the most successful comedy teams of their era. By 1903 their partnership elevated from the vaudeville circuit to Broadway, where their act evolved to full-scale musical comedy. They produced, wrote and starred in In Dahomey (1902), the first Black musical comedy to open on Broadway.
After Walker's death in 1909 from syphilis, Williams joined the shows of Florenz Ziegfeld and starred in the Follies from 1910 to 1919. He created the persona of the "Jonah Man" the unluckiest man in the world, resigned to his fate with rueful self-pity that transcended his color. Williams' trademark character was an expansion of the traditional and simplistic darky role to create a fuller fleshed-out character. Bert introduced a new aspect to the classic dimwit, adding a dimension that audiences applauded not only for its humor but also for its illustration of his talents as an actor. Jonah Man was a dumb coon in appearance only. The man underneath was both dubious and contemplative.

As a single act, Bert Williams was the first black to become a star comedian on Broadway. Shortly after his opening on Broadway, Theatre Magazine called Bert Williams "a vastly funnier man than any white comedian now on the American stage." He was the first Black featured in a Broadway revue and was the first Black actor to join Actor's Equity. In London he played a command performance before King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace.

Through mime, Bert Williams displayed an emotional range that transcended the boisterous performance style of minstrels or the broad physical comedy of vaudeville. Although the performance was comedic, beginning and ending in laughter, it was also dramatic, touching upon his emotional depth. Although Bert played the familiar Jim Crow character, his performance enabled him to step a bit out of the heavy shadow that the stereotype cast.

Williams became the first Black comedian to ever appear in the cinema, debuting on screen in 1914, in Darktown Jubilee. A screening of the independent black film in Brooklyn produced boos, cat-calls, and a near race riot from a white audience who rejected the all-black film. Darktown Jubilee was quickly taken out of circulation by the distributor, Biograph.

In 1916, he produced, directed and starred in A Natural Born Gambler. The film features his most famous pantomime routine, that of a poker player who goes through all the motions of dealing, placing bets and ultimately...losing. His facial expressions and gestures were subtle, in contrast to the standards of the day, and yet more expressive. He was able to convey a wide array of emotions as his character rode the emotional highs and lows of a single hand.

Also in 1916, Bert produced, directed and starred in Fish, about a boy who spends hours digging for worms and wants to spend his afternoon fishing, but when he returns home for his pole he finds chores waiting. He sneaks out on the chores and goes fishing anyway. After he catches a big fish he tries to sell it to one of his neighbors, but the neighbor runs him off. The boy's family catches up with him and drags him back to his chores. At 42, Bert's attempt to portray a "boy" was not well received. Bert was frustrated with the limitations of primitive cinema and Fish was his last film.
Bert Williams continued to play the vaudeville circuit and record songs from his shows for the fledgling recording industry. His phonograph records were more numerous than his films and provided a more extensive view of his talents and abilities. Considered by some to be one of the finest recording stars of the time, he cut seventeen titles during his four-year contract with Columbia Records. While most of his recordings are said to have been “simple parodies of conventional stage humor of the period,” others were more serious songs which showcased his considerable talent.

Bert's most famous vaudeville character was Mr. Nobody, whose sad song would later be sung by everyone from Nina Simone to Johnny Cash.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cut your grass and the rest will follow!

I recently saw this post on facebook from a Black man:

"Rant about black folks who want everything but refuse to do the basics for themselves: Earlier this week I commented on a local black radio discussion regarding attracting investment to central city prescription was to have residents demonstrate that they care about their neighborhood by cleaning up trash, plant grass if your lawn is bare, become proactive against elements that create opportunity for crime (i.e., monitor children who are just hanging out causing disruption, report crime to the police, turn on porch lights at night, etc)...people will invest in attractive neighborhoods, no business wants to locate to an area where folks don't show care...few want to invest in a business where residents aren't prone to calling police if there are break ins and thefts...the talk host poo pooed my solution to which I said then just let their neighborhood remain an armpit..I can't help black folks that refuse to help themselves...I certainly don't want those kind of black folks living around me"

As I read his post I just kept hearing EnVogue singing in my mind "Cut yo' grass! And the rest will follow!" It's hilarious to think that we are still talking about how Black people need to behave in order to get the same benefits that white people do, no matter how they act. White folk can ack'a fool but no one will ever tell them writ large to clean their yards, take down those Confederate flags, or discipline their bad kids because inherent in these biases, Black people are still seen as being in need of being controlled. Wether that control is internal or external doesn't matter. Just to keep the driven, wanton, lustful, Black masses, with their jiggly, big-bootied, neck swiveling, angry Sharkeshas from slapping a ho (unless its on reality TV); to the cherry lip-glossed Sapphires ensconced like queens on the throne on welfare; to the BBC mandigos, slangin' molly along with rap lyrics named Rasha'ad who got five baby mammas they don't take care of; and who cares if they don't 'cause they all going to prison were they belong anyway. America loves the affectation of Blackness until they have to wear the label itself then every mutha fucka wants a refund.

So here's what I said to him:

Many people (both Black and white) think the problem in poor Black, inner city areas is strewn garbage on the street and ill-behaved children. You like to blame disinvestment on people who don't clean their lawns or fit the way you think a "good Black person" should be. So why don't you use that same fervor to push business owners to build factories in cities anymore. For years, in the north especially, manufacturing jobs help lift many Black people out of poverty. Where are those jobs now? They have been sent oversees. Yet I don't see many conservatives demanding those jobs to come back. What I hear is a lot about deregulations and trickle-down economics. Unions used to help lift Black workers out of poverty. Black people were the driving force for unionization as a matter of fact. Yet union membership is actually lower now that it was BEFORE the FLSA was made into law 80 years ago. Wisconsin governor and presidential candidate, Scott Walker, prides himself on destroying unions. In the 1970s a man with a only a high school diploma could make a good living by working as a skilled-laborer on an assembly line, with good healthcare and benefits; now a man with just a high school diploma can only get a job working part-time at Micky Dees or Target for minimum wage and no benefits. If you're a single mom working 2 jobs (and remember even a woman receiving TANF has to work PT) the last thing you are going to think about is cutting the grass.

If you want the neighborhood to change you need to talk to the banks. Have them offer loans in these "trashy" neighborhoods to bring back a good housing base. Often times in these areas you describe as bad, a homeowner has to pay HIGHER interest rates than in a suburban community. So what this does is bring in slumlords who buy cheap housing for cash then rent them out. HOw about giving incentives to Black working families to move back into these areas. Many of these older neighborhoods had families at one time, but with Black flight, high interest loans, red-lining and the sheer cost of being poor many of these places have now been populated with low-income renters.

If you want these neighborhoods to change get rid of "broken windows" policing. Often we think of Black inner city neighborhoods as crime ridden when many aren't. When I lived in The Bronx, my zip code had a much lower crime rate that some of the city's more affluent neighborhoods, yet all my white friends (who had been mugged steps from their apartments) kept asking me why I lived in such an unsafe area. Stop-&-Frisk is another example of over-policing. Each year in New York City over 500,000 Black and Latino young men were stopped by cops for no reason. The overwhelming majority of them were found to have no warrants, guns, drugs, etc. If we had any other program with a 97% failure rate it would have been stopped immediately, yet this continued for over a decade because there was a perception that Black youth commit crimes all the time. Also over policing leads to the removal of millions of Black men from their communities. Right now if you are poor, white and use drugs and live in a rural trailer park you are 4 times less likely to be arrested for drug possession than a poor Black kid living in the inner city. Right now we have hundreds of thousands of Black men sitting in prison whose only crime was having a small amount of weed/ pot or crack on their person. Those men could be out in the community working, building homes, keeping up their lawns.

If you want the neighborhood to change give parents a reason to relocate to the area. Change the policy on schools (use vouchers, charters, fix the broken public schools, anything and everything to help get those kids on track). Telling somebody to plant flowers or sweep their sidewalk doesn't prevent their local schools from failing. Get rid of the school-to-prison pipeline. In a recent study it was found that in Wake Country, NC a Black elementary (yes grade-school) student was 11 times more likely to be arrested for an in-school infraction than their white counterparts. People are far less likely to go to college if they went to a school system that failed them from 1st through 12th grade. Failing schools produce failing adults.

If you want the neighborhood to change then force the city to put funds back into these places. We have starved our cities to death with tax cut after tax cut after tax cut that only end up benefiting the riches people in the community. We have been tricked by the GOP into thinking our tax cut, which may buy you a couple pairs of Jordans and a few extra pizza runs will help you. What these tax cuts do is keep more money in the pockets of the rich--who don't spend it, they just hoard it--while defunding much needed public services like buses, light-pole maintenance and the public defenders office.

So let's repeat: the prescription to bettering a neighborhood is not cutting grass or disciplining children, its creating good jobs that pay people well, keep them healthy, give them low interest loans and other incentives to buy in the neighborhood while providing their children a solid educational foundation at the same time keeping up the infrastructure. It may sound like a lot but we see this formula replicated all across America, in predominately white suburbs. We know it works there so let's apply it to inner city neighborhoods as well. But telling poor Black people that its their fault businesses won't employ them or banks won't give them money simply because they have raggedy houses with burned lawns or bad-assed loud children is not only condescending its a lie.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The season of the witch

 Her friend Chrysanthemum Applewhite, with her sultry lips and pale skin, had finally let her hair grow out. Solstice thought it looked pretty down but the green changeable taffeta evening gown the woman wore—with the double-straps and basket weave bodice was just too drab and austere for her tastes. Solstice wanted something daring. Something unforgettable. So she chose to have her personal seamstress run up the same dress Bette Davis wore earlier that year to the Oscars, altered to fit her own style of course. Bette’s dress was dark but Solstice wanted something more soulful. Hers was made of gold metallic tulle with an attention-grabbing collar of peacock feathers that ringed her face with a flourish. Her chocker of faceted chrysoprase was dramatic but it seemed subdued compared to the massive yellow sapphire cocktail ring she wore on her right hand. The same hand that held the glass of champagne she had just spilled on the man now holding her.

     Solstice was tallish for a woman with a light complexion. “Café con leche.” is what her Dominican suitor kept calling her. More Ethel Waters than Lena Horne with bright red hair that she hated and often described as—“an angry nappy bush”—was constantly at odds with a comb. She reigned over her New Year’s Eve party with the confidence of a tiger over its domain. An ecru impresario who plied her guests with expensive gin, hot jazz and an expansive showmanship snatched directly from Josephine Baker’s groundbreaking performance in “Un Vent de Follie” of the Folies Bergère. She saw the show that was eventually made into a movie starring Maurice Chevalier, Merle Oberon and Ann Sothern. She had met them all at its 1935 Paris premiere with Shaka Tiberius—oh how she missed his touch with those broad militaristic shoulders and generously large hands. That dark mahogany skin and his lush mouth that curled into a devilishly succulent smile when he felt horny or mischievous. Antonin Crissuki put on quite a show himself that night for Maurice and the girls at his notorious after café club Chambre du Sang, but she digressed, Latin men and champagne had that affect on her. The revelry seemed to come to a stop as if a red light was turned on; and she, just for a moment, savored her own greatness. The two-and-a-half thousand square foot ballroom sat on the top most floor of her doublewide Convent Avenue brownstone in Harlem. When you went to a “Solstice Macaffey Affair”—always in quotes, always italicized—you were guaranteed to have a wonderful time. A sitting Queen of Witches would have it no other way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We got 99 hate groups but Black Lives Matter ain't one


There it was. In big bold letters. Festooned across the top of newspapers and pamphlets; flyers and billboards. Postcards and mailers. The leader of the Negro movement was backed by communists. In a photograph Dr. Martin Luther King is highlighted, usually printed with a large black arrow with his name inside, sitting along with other "communist sympathizers" supposedly being trained. The photograph had been taken at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. An important incubator for anti-segregation activists that had a long storied history of fighting for racial justice and human rights. The Highlander, situated on rolling hills in the lush high country of Tennessee, had been pushing for unionization, women's rights and integration across of the South for decades. At its height of influence in the 1950s you couldn't throw a stone and not hit a future Civil rights icon; there was Rosa Parks talking strategy in 1955 before the bus boycotts, there was Pete Seerger, Charis Horton and Ralph Abernathy confabbing.  You had James Bevel and Bernard Lafayette working on SNCC's next move while singing "We Shall Overcome" to break the tension. The Highlander was closed by the state for "inciting public panic" in 1959. In a now famous standoff the county sheriff evacuated the center's building and padlocked the door. Myles Horton, the founder, stood by and watched as reporters flashed photographs. As the sheriff walked away Horton turned to the phalanx of media people and said defiantly "You can padlock a building but you can't padlock an idea."

The photgraph itself was innocuous. A lecture had been given at the Highlander but the words across the top were damming. It didn't matter if the origin of the picture had been planted by the Ku Klux Klan. The smear campaign had begun. Dr. Martin Luther King and his horde of communist backed minions were here to bring violence, unGodliness and white slavery to the United States. Many southern newspapers ran the picture and the accompanying story as a rallying cry for Southern whites to wake up. Rise up. To support and defend their Southern heritage at all costs.  Of course this was only a part of a large COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgram)--which is a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. These schemes were often facilitated by media. With this backdrop in mind we should not find it shocking that Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggests the Black Lives Matter movement is a hate group. I'm surprised that this didn't come sooner.

The goals of Hoover's machinations were simple:

1. Create a negative public image for targeted groups (e.g. by surveilling activists, and releasing negative personal information to the public)
  • Think of how #BLM member Shaun King was "outed" a few weeks ago for not being Black
  • Think of how the 2 #BLM Black women who organized the strike on Bernie Sanders's Seattle rally were called out because one of them was a former Palin supporter and was labelled as a radical Christian.
  • They claim that civil rights organizations exacerbate race relations and cause violence as in the recent shooting of a Texas law enforcement officer, but are silent when two cops are gunned down execution-style in a Las Vegas pizza shop and covered with the Gadsden Flag (Don't Tread on Me) which has become the standard of the Tea Party.

2. Break down internal organization
  • Think about all those news pundits who keep saying nobody knows what the Black Lives Matter movement really is all about. Even though it has been stated time and time again, on Facebook, Twitter, their website, by members, by me. You just keep hearing this drumbeat of confusion and disorganization. Why aren't the journalist doing journalism instead of conjecture?  

3. Create dissension between groups
  • There's a rule of thumb used in Civil Rights. If the media can find one Black person to refute the claims of any Civil Rights organization, that organization is automatically discredited. We saw this after Dr. King was openly criticized by the Black elite after his blistering "Beyond Vietnam" speech where he excoriated President Johnson for his slow-pace on fair housing here in America while spending millions to send troops to die in Vietnam. They told Dr. King he was being ungrateful and petulant. A year before Dr. King died a poll was conducted that showed 53% of African-Americans viewed him unfavorably.
  • We see it now as FOX News parades out a string of "coons for coins" who are all too happy to denigrate Black civil rights leaders and organizations. These so-called "experts" are willing to make the most outlandish and incendiary claims which in turn vacates Hasselback, Doucy, Hannety, O'Reilly, Coulter and others part in race baiting. They can easily say "See this Black hates Obama; he doesn't think racism is real; Black people are lazy, dangerous and sad. And because we love our own magical Negro, Dr. Ben Carson, the other forty-five million of you must be wrong."  
There are other tools in the White Supremacy gadget box like restricting access to public resources,
restricting the ability to organize protests and restricting the ability of individuals to participate in group activities. All of these are done to dilute, distort, defame and deflect the organization and our attention away from the real matter at hand. To keep the narrative away from the systemic death, destruction and denigration of millions of American lives. So while Hasselback's comments are controversial and she will take some heat for it; the truth is her sentiments were scripted for her years ago by an angry, racist zealot sitting in a marble fortress fighting against the forward momentum of racial justice. From his heart of darkness he has created a still formidable matrix that uses misinformation and apathy to prop-up an untenable situation, one that we must not only confront but affirm that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

White Noise Black Noise

I can't remember a more eventful week. Eight epochal days starting with a terrorist act so heinous; so unfounded, so unbelievably evil that the perpetrator became instantly infamous. A Name that Shall not be Named. A name to frighten children and evoke America's long standing history of killing Black people. Nine souls, martyrs, lambs to the slaughter, innocents. Surely in the future the question "Where were you when the Charleston 9 were killed?" shall join those other seminal questions about the Kennedy Assassination and the Challenger Disaster. As the blood ran on those ancient antebellum bricks of Charleston, calls soon came to remove the Confederate Battle flag. A symbol of white supremacy and black fear that had flown continuously somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon since Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse 150 years ago. Then the flags came down. Like detritus shook from the feet of the future. Like a snake shedding its skin. States and retailers alike had finally agreed that the Civil War was at last over.

But the tectonic plates were only getting started. A social justice tsunami generational in scale was on its way. Our President's signature healthcare reform law; originally derided as, but begrudgingly accepted as, Obamacare was vindicated by the Supreme Court. On the same day the Fair Housing Act was up held ensuring that the feds could go after racial discrimination in housing even when it its not intentional. We learned a new term: disparate impact. Then within 24-hours we were celebrating marriage for all. Now anyone of any gender can marry any one of any gender in any state in this country. It seemed the world was changing right in front of our eyes. A swirling kaleidoscope, tumbling forward, then backward. We were caught in a spinning combine. It was emotional and it was dizzying. It was exhausting.

I have often said the internet democratized us. Anybody with wifi and a laptop can now become a wisdom chamber, filled with eloquent punditry. Or so we think of ourselves as we write our thoughts in the comments section. Each of us a digital blowhard. Usually this noise is something I can pick through; like looking for strawberries on a hot summer day, the cicadas in the background singing. The buzzing of insects is like that of vox populi; it simmers in the back of my mind but it never really disturbs me. I'd read a blog that is to my liking and discard the duds. But with the social cataclysm that occurred in America in the last week the noise became too much. Pundits, professors, TV personalities, social bloggers, Facebook groups, cousins, that guy in the next chair at the barbershop all had varying opinions, each as passionate as the next. Some were spot on, some were convoluted. But the sheer volume of debate coalesced into a brain-shattering chop suey of words; a cacophony of think pieces, status updates, hashtags, comments, memes; epic battles of dim wits with heavy usage of animated gifs to prove their points. We have been buzzfed, Upworhtied, Briebarted and Huff Posted ad nauseam.  Everybody and when I say everybody I mean every-fucking-body had to weigh in on every-fucking-issue!

By the time President Obama finished eulogizing Rev. Clementa Pinkney, singing "Amazing Grace", the heavens opened up in an eruption of judgment and conjecture. Over the last nine days every word anybody has publically spoken on any of these subjects were dissected. Pulled about, gone over with a fine-toothed comb. President Obama went too far on race or he didn't go far enough. He was too soft, he wasn't soft enough. He was bombastic. He used his bully pulpit. He missed this opportunity. Then came the dissenters. Republican presidential candidates made hysterical pronouncements of doom over gays getting married. This was the final hour of man because jiggery pookery was used on something only God can concretize. People spewed invectives. We charged each other with willful ignorance. One screed after another after another. Social media was awash with liberal intellectual outrage. I felt like I had been dropped down into a pit of tigers or vipers. Hissing and growling their displeasure, ready to devour me at any grammatical or logical misstep. It was overwhelming. And this coming from a person who got a U (unsatisfactory) in behavior in the second grade because my teacher told me I liked to debate every word she said.

People have a right to their opinions. Everybody has a right to express them. But can we get off our soapboxes for just a few seconds. The racial/ gender/ sexual orientation carrousel will keep spinning. As the president said in his eulogy "We talk about race all the time." The problem is we don't do anything about it. So instead of writing a blog to let the world know how angry you are over injustice, how about writing a blog on how to cure it. Or better yet finish your latte, close your laptop and go boldly into the world and affect the change you have been complaining about. If the president or your congressman or your pastor or your transgendered-same-gender-loving-non-conformist-evangelical-Southern Pride-Sons-of-Confederate-Veterans-common law spouse ain't doing it the way you want it done then do it yourself.

In the words of Grace Lee Boggs, social activist,

"Rebellions tend to be negative, to denounce and expose the enemy without providing a positive vision of a new future...A revolution is not just for the purpose of correcting past injustices, a revolution involves a projection of man/woman into the future...It begins with projecting the notion of a more human human being, i.e. a human being who is more advanced in the specific qualities which only human beings have - creativity, consciousness and self-consciousness, a sense of political and social responsibility."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Invisible Kid

I'm so glad that we are living in an age of video and social media. For years many  people rationalized or eschewed racial/ gender/ age/ orientation biases as being untrue or unfounded. We have seen over the last 16 months an onslaught of media evidence that can NO LONGER be ignored. There are biases in this country. Biases which are baked into the bedrock of our nation. Now that's not to say those biases make you a bad person because we all have them; but acting on those biases can lead to dire and even deadly consequences.

So as the story begins to unfold apparently a white teenager confronted a white adult over their racially denigrating remarks about some Black kids that had been invited to a high school graduation pool party in a Dallas suburb. Allegedly this argument between the teen and an adult escalated to the point a fist-fight between some kids broke out. Residents of the mostly white community who had already been calling to complain about the infiltration of Black kids alerted the police. ONE cruiser came out initially and tried to disburse the ever growing crowd to no success. The kids didn't leave. There was no distinction between race at this point. ALL the kids were unruly. The police officer called for back-up and the dispatcher sent eight (8) more units.

The next set of police arrive and start rounding up ONLY the Blacks kids. Making them lie face down on the ground, handcuffing them, chastising them for "running" away. Cursing at many of the kids who seem in the video to be upset, angry and frightened. One officer seemed to be the most aggressive; cursing, running around discombobulated, wrestling teenage boys the ground. There's a point he even yanks one bikini-clad young Black teenage girl to the ground by her braids then pulls a gun on her friends when they rush to her aid. Had it not been for two (2) other officers who grabbed him to deescalate the situation he may have fired his weapon on unarmed kids. He then returns to the young girl and knees her in the back to force her into handcuffs, all the while she screaming for her mother. Her crime? Having a attitude and speaking out like most teenagers.

I am so glad we now have images that can back up the stories that I (from my own dealings with police as a youth) and others have been telling for years. That this problem is systemic and not anecdotal. To be Black in America is to be constantly surveilled. Not because of your actions but because you present a perception of criminality and danger. Black people are constantly being told where we need to be, what we need to wear, how we need to act, what we need to say and how we need to say it unlike ANY ethnic group in this country. Instead of us as Americans addressing this very fact we love to point fingers and blame the other.

I have a prescription to help this country but most people will never use it. To confront the problems of race we have to admit we live in a society that is deeply flawed. That there is a holistic problem of discrimination that; no individual be they a successful Black man or a poor white man can escape. That there is racial disparity in every aspect of American life. Now we can pretend racism ended in 1968 or that everything was fine until President Obama brought it back. But we love to lie to ourselves in this country. The young white teenager who recorded the video remarked that he just stood by and watched as the police rounded up the Black kids and only handcuffed the one white teen. He said he was largely ignored. That's what we do with racism. It is the huge, invisible elephant in the room pressing us back against the walls.